Most of us move through life as merely the sum of what we know.
As far back as I can remember, I knew a couple of things for sure. I loved music, and I always felt so... inherently alone. I'm still not totally sure where the latter came from, but these two absolute truths paired hand in hand created a world for me to play with my darker, much more complex thoughts without actually becoming them. They were only lyrics after all, and though I didn't understand it then, this was my very first safe space.
My parents, both young musicians themselves, recognized this early. They took the last of their savings and built a home studio in our garage where I became a complete sponge. At 8 yrs old I learned to record myself on DAT tape singing along to The Eagles and Stevie Nicks. I fell in love with harmonies and sound design, and became obsessed with dissecting the choices made by the great producers and artists of the time. My path was clear, and at 15 years old, I took my first plane ride to NYC, sat at a piano in an office on Madison Ave, and I played hours worth of material I had written in my little diary for the president of Sony Music. That day he gave me a record deal.
Songs I had written about identity and abandonment were swiftly replaced with songs written for me, glorifying my young body and encouraging toxic relationships. I didn't connect to these concepts, and I didn't understand why they signed me to make an album if what came so naturally to me was to be replaced by something less authentic. This is when I stopped trusting myself. I was a product for sale, and this new direction was more convincing to the men writing the checks at my label, or as they would say, more digestible to the mass market of girls aged 15 - 35 I was constantly reminded I would have to cater to in order to succeed.
I now know that this is called "branding", and is all but a guaranteed necessity for anyone with any type of influence to be allowed a seat at the table today. I met resistance every time I had an opinion other than that of my gatekeepers. So much so, that I was signed and dropped 2 more times after Sony finally let me go. I learned to be quiet. I was shrugged off and made to believe I was just young and didn't know any better. My voice was gone, and I was taken advantage of in more ways than one. Music was no longer my safe space, it was no longer about expression or art for me. It was a job, and it was full of untrustworthy people. Not only was I losing my grip on the only thing I felt remotely connected to or good at, but my home life was falling apart. I came back from tour to find that my mother and father were divorcing after 20 years.
This seemed like a good time time to run away. I moved in with my best friend Jessica an hour away in Los Angeles. Co-dependent relationships came and went and felt like a warm blanket in the voids. I poured my entire heart and soul into saving a narcissist, stopped caring about anything, became severely depressed and barely survived to forgive myself. There had to be more for me than this, but my mental health was failing and I had no way of knowing where to start. I took small jobs and sang demo vocals on songs I didn't write to pay the bills. Many of these demo songs leaked online, and ruined whatever shot I had left at another record deal because there was so much misinformation attached to my name.
Most days I just felt jaded and empty, but on the good ones I would try to picture myself like a canvas. I wanted to fill myself with things that actually meant something to me. I wanted to build myself a life I believed in, and the old one was dead to me. I made myself a list called How To Be Happy on my phone and read it every day. I filled it with things as small as keeping fresh flowers in my room, or as integral as finding a higher power to believe in. Religion felt too much like money to me. I didn't trust men or politics, and I found more solace in nature or nerding out about science, psychology, time and space. The things man knows the least about. I wanted to have an answer to "who are you?".
Who are you?
People always told me I needed a "story" to sell.. I never knew what that was about, but maybe this is how I find out. The deeper I tread into the story of my life, the more I saw my small, scared self, my inner child repeating the cycle of seeking approval, not trusting herself, and hiding the pain so deeply because what she thought, did not, and should not matter. I questioned everything. I tried to see my life from every angle, and tried to meet her at every scary place she hid, and just bring her love and acceptance because I felt for her. She had been through so much, and she only knew what she knew.
I only knew what I knew.
I am only the sum of my experiences and will continue to react from this place, unless I can first identify the pattern and then change it.
That thought gave me just enough self awareness, just enough separation from that girl to put my arms around her and begin to heal.
I found the cycle of birth, life, death, and birth again in every pattern in nature. This means we can regenerate as often as we would like. We can change.
The past and future do not matter, because no matter where we are it will always be the present. Moment to moment, anything and everything can have a million different outcomes. Moment to moment it could all be gone.
Its in our awareness of the magic of every second. I don't have to hold on so tight to everything I've been through. I don't have to bring it into this moment or space. The knowledge carries on, and I do have to learn the lessons, but most importantly I have to forgive and LOVE the girl who endured it all. She did her best.
My healing has come in knowing we do not have to be defined, and in finding empathy for exactly where I am in THIS moment. There is a light, and its Love. Its in the sweet things we do for ourselves throughout the day. Its parenting ourselves the way we wish we were parented as children. Its paying attention to our thoughts, feelings and our bodies, and reaching out when we need to. It expels hate, self doubt, and fear, and it grows beyond us to include all things. Theres so much beneath us all that we hide, and its all ok. We are all where we are because of an incredible story we may know nothing about. Ask yourself. Ask your inner child. Ask anyone. Just ask.